On Thursday, July 25, the Mets beat the San Diego Padres 4-0 at home behind Jacob deGrom, which improved their record to 47-55 on the season. Since then, the Mets have lost once and won 10 times. It is true that the Mets have done this against what have lately been some of the worst teams in baseball—the Pirates have won four of the 23 games they’ve played since the All-Star Break, the White Sox seven of their 24, and the Marlins nine of 23. It is also true that the problems that have troubled the team not just this year but for the better part of a decade—luridly poor defense, a bullpen that’s pretty much one prolonged and extra-clammy anxiety attack, a lack of depth—have not really been remedied. And yet there is also this: the Mets might well never lose again.
Or, look: they will lose again. They may well lose to the Marlins tonight, and it may well be because this blog appeared on this website. The Mets are, at any moment, haunted by up to a dozen vengeful spirits and subject to innumerable supernatural and/or self-inflicted curses, hexes, and miscellaneous haints, none of which explains why the team is so dedicated to playing guys out of position or the deeply defective concept of “the second proven closer.” The organizational philosophy espoused by the team’s salty and unappeasable owners, which amounts to Doing Just Enough That Something Might Happen If Everything Goes Right remains very much in place. Yes, they boldly added a very good pitcher at the trade deadline, but then they dumped the salary of another starter on a division rival in exchange for a banjo-hitting Double-A catcher who is literally the owner’s grandson’s college buddy, which is something the philosophers refer to as The Duality Of Mets. Just as he started to show some signs of life at the plate for the first time this year, Robinson Canó ruptured his hamstring and was lost for the season. These things are all true. But also: the boys are hot.
In an ordinary blog post, this would be the place that the caveat would go, but as the majority of this story about the hottest team in baseball has been constructed entirely out of caveat, it might be better to just get to the point. For most of this season, the Mets were a sub-mediocre team that regularly lost in devastating and deflating ways. Their best players were very good and very likable—a metronomic pitching ace; a hitting savant that the team’s decision makers wrongly believed to be organizational filler for far too long; a beefy and ebullient rookie who mashes jumbo taters; a franchise cornerstone that something like a third of the team’s fanbase somehow still thinks is a scrub—but seemed swamped by the bad energy and bad luck that follow the franchise as a matter of course. Those shadows have burned all the way off over the last couple of weeks, and the Mets currently have the giddy glowing cockiness and general bulletproof vibe of a far better team. Alonso added an F to the customary #LGM hashtag, right in the place where the defiant emphasis should be. His game-winning homer in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader sweep against the Marlins followed homers by J.D. Davis and Michael Conforto in the previous two at-bats and elicited a wholly out-of-bounds Bruce Springsteen reference from play-by-play guy Gary Cohen. It was chaotic and preposterous and deeply silly. The Mets are almost certainly not this good, but also no team is this good.
And I guess now we can do the caveats: when the Mets finish up with the Marlins, they will play a number of good-to-very-good teams the rest of the way; they have nine games remaining against the first-place Atlanta Braves alone. These are the teams that the Mets will need to beat—not every time, but something like two times out of three—in order to continue to make their way up through the Wild Card standings. The addition of Marcus Stroman improved the rotation significantly, but in every other sense the Mets will have to beat the teams they need to beat with what’s more or less the same roster that got them to the second-worst record in the National League at the All-Star Break.
But this team is not that team. For however long it lasts, the Mets are something very different, something much more fun and a little frightening in the way uncanny things always are. They are, at this moment, pretty much out of their minds with belief. They have a lot of ground to make up, and the things that didn’t work that suddenly all started working at the same time could well stop working again as the schedule or the phase of the moon changes, but also this is baseball and Things Like This happen every year. It is August, and only just. It definitely feels like the Mets will never lose again, but that’s just not the way it works. Except for sometimes. But it almost never works like that. But you have to consider it. It would be wise, probably, to consider it.